Repurposing Bartlett Yard in Roxbury

Upcoming plans for an, innovative, mixed-use urban development will enhance the historic Forthill neighborhood of Roxbury, Massachusetts. As the community eagerly awaits this new development, the current owner’s group Nuestra Comunidad Development Corporation decided to take the existing abandoned site for a new twist. The enthusiastic owners have temporarily turned the buildings and site, an eight-acre urban wasteland that was once an MBTA bus yard, over to local artists to create images on and around the abandon structures.

Wall art and mural paintings are only the tip of the iceberg. The Bartlett team also plans on kicking off Bartlett Events, known as “Mural Fest,” an all-day art extravaganza on May 18th, where dozens of local artists will be on site painting murals and interacting with the community. When completed, the site is expected to be the largest collection of street art Boston has ever seen. In addition local muralists group from “Team Rekloos” are planning to create a “Wall of Hope,” a 120± foot mural overlooking Washington Street. The mural is intended to raise awareness about the community and pay homage to the victims and heroes of the tragic events of the Boston Marathon.

Repurposing abandoned buildings with murals and community art raises the question:  should this be the norm moving forward?  The failed highway project some two generations ago left behind many vacant lots and abandoned buildings around Roxbury. “Why not allow local artists the freedom to release their creative juices and stress through paint?” ask one of the artists. There are great plans ahead for Bartlett Yard, although its resurrection is long overdue, this new development is refreshing.

Kudos to the local owners for tapping into Roxbury’s rich artistic community. Looking ahead to the new developments, here’s what we can expect them to do:

  • Provide a variety of new homes ranging from apartment buildings to townhomes for 312 households, including a wide mix of incomes, renters and homeowners, families, singles and seniors.
  • Bring new shopping opportunities and services to a neighborhood with tremendous buying power but limited retail options.
  • Create jobs, including construction jobs, over a 3-year buildout period and permanent jobs in the small businesses that will operate at Bartlett Place along the Washington Street commercial corridor.
  • Be LEED- certifiable for new housing (LEED for Homes) and new commercial construction (LEED-NC), by incorporating passive solar heating, geothermal heat pumps, rain and gray water recycling, and safe, renewable finishes and materials.
  • Promote lively streetscapes outside of homes and business, with easy connections to neighboring Fort Hill streets.
  • Reduce auto dependence: located one-quarter mile from the busiest bus terminal in Massachusetts and within walking distance to housing, jobs and schools.
  • Transform a contaminated brownfield site into safe, welcoming homes, public plazas and play areas for families and neighbors.
  • Use recycled site materials to build infrastructure.

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